What Quakers Believe and How They Live Today*
*Adapted from material on the Friends General Conference website
Are Quakers Christian?
Quakerism has deep Christian roots that form our understanding of God, our faith, and our practices. Many Quakers consider themselves Christian, and some do not. Many Quakers today draw spiritual nourishment from our Christian roots and strive to follow the example of Jesus. Many other Quakers draw spiritual sustenance from various religious traditions, such as Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and the nature religions.
It sounds like Quakers can believe whatever they wish. Is that correct?
Quakers invite the will of the Divine to be written in our experience and hearts rather than on paper --- we have no creed. But we also believe that if we are sincerely open to the Inner Guide, we will be guided by a Wisdom more compelling than our own thoughts and feelings. This can mean that we will find ourselves given insight and direction that we may not have chosen just from personal preference. Following such guidance is not always easy. This is why we read the reflections of other Quakers who have lived faithful lives and why community is so important to Quakers. We turn to each other for worshipful help in making important choices.
Do Quakers read the Bible?
The Bible is a book close to the hearts of many Friends, but some Quakers have little interest in the Bible. Many Quakers turn to the Hebrew and Christian scriptures for inspiration, insight, and guidance. They are valued as a source of wisdom that has been sacred to many generations. Quakers are informed by Biblical scholarship that offers perspective on the creation of the Bible and the understanding we have of it today. Most Quakers do not consider the Bible to be the final authority or the only source of sacred wisdom. We read it in the context of other religious writings and sources of wisdom, including the Light Within and worshipful community discernment.
What does the pastor do?
Some Quaker congregations employ an ordained clergy person to deliver sermons and perform pastoral duties. But most unprogrammed Quaker meetings, such as Chatham Summit Quakers, do not employ a pastor. We believe that we are all ministers and responsible for the care of our worship and community. Quaker meetings function by appointing members to offices and committees, which take care of things like religious education for adults and children, visiting the sick, planning special events, and having the meeting house roof repaired. A member of the meeting is appointed as a “clerk,” a volunteer office. The clerk chairs business meetings and stays alert and responsive to community needs. When the clerk’s term expires, a new clerk is appointed.
How do Quakers live today?
There are Quakers of all ages, religious backgrounds, races and ethnicities, education, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and classes. Modern Quakers generally “blend in” with the larger culture, rather than adopting the distinctive dress and patterns of speech associated with Quakers of earlier centuries. Early Quakers did not celebrate any religious holidays because they considered all days as “holy days.” Today most Quakers celebrate a low-key Christmas, and sometimes Easter, as part of our larger culture.
Like early Quakers, Friends today try to “let their lives speak” – by living and acting in ways that are consistent with the divine guidance we seek in worship.
Do I have to be a pacifist to be a Quaker?
Peace has always been a very important expression of how Quakers are guided by the Spirit. We wrestle with our understanding of what God requires of us. We are asked to consider if we are called to be pacifists, but this determination is left to the individual as conscience dictates. For many, it has meant a commitment to nonviolence and conscientious objection to participating in war. Some Quakers, however, have served in the military. For more on Quaker pacifism, see the QuakerSpeak video Why Are Quakers Pacifists?
What do Quakers think about science?
Quakers find compatibility in our longing for spiritual understanding and in our desire to understand the workings of the natural world. Many Quakers have been leaders in science, including some who have won the Nobel Prize in a variety of fields. We understand that people evolved over millennia, and we stand in awe of the creation. Many Quakers feel called to help protect and heal the world that we are blessed to inhabit.
How do I become a member?
When you have attended meeting for a period of time and regularly participated in worship and the life of the community, you may begin to feel a spiritual tie to Chatham Summit You may want to consider becoming a member. The Clerk of the meeting can explain the process.